A massively biased and, ultimately, underwhelming account of jobs that even people performing them think shouldn’t exist. It is biased because David Graeber’s sole source of information — beside his own flowering mind — were his Twitter followers. More precisely: his followers’ self-imolations in prose sparked by the short essay which popularized the term. So you get not only a self-selected sample of young middle-class professionals discontent with their jobs, but also the attempts of that sample to connect with their anarchist idol. A fun game to play while plodding through these accounts — accounts which, by the way, take a full half of the book — is to spot the embelishments. There are many, and some even Graeber marks as such.
As for underwhelming, well, the book’s purely descriptive nature wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t skin-deep. Graeber comes frustratingly close to asking some interesting questions;1 alas, that would have required too much research. Instead we got fan mail copypasta and cheap digs at the corporate culture. So it goes…
In no particular order: Should we be worried about AI taking our livelihoods if most jobs are irrelevant anyway? How much of what doctors do is bullshit, and are they aware of it? Is the private sector just as bad as the government in real-to-bullshit job ratio, or are some companies better than others, and is that reflected in their market value? Are there any signs of de-bullshitization in countries that experimented with Universal Basic Income? ↩